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Spier Craft Market and Fair Trade
By: Sue Heathcock   (2017-01-20)

Spier Craft Market, since I took over the management in 2005, has been run as a social enterprise, designed to support and promote entrepreneurs. Recently an independent Fair Trade specialist was contracted by Spier to do a detailed assessment and analysis of the market business model. We were delighted to read her final report, which confirmed that the Spier Craft Market is very closely aligned to international Fair Trade principles and best practices. Some of the elements that she appreciated are as follows:

Shared responsibilties

The market is organised in a series of creative clusters, each shared by artists working in a similar field. They share the responsibilities of manning the stall, selling the work on behalf of the group and maintaining the display. Each artist takes a turn and has to be there at least one day a week, but the shared model frees artists up to sell at other outlets or spend more time in their workshops on production.

Artists work and sell

Artists can work on their pieces while at the market, so that they can produce and sell at the same time, often a problem for makers who face the age-old dilemma of whether to take time out from production to sell, or pay someone else to sell for them. Watching the artists at work is an extra attraction for visitors, seeing how a beautiful wire and bead animal or a delicate piece of jewellery is made. The low-tech processes that most of the artists use make it easy to work on the spot, needing only a few hand-tools and a bench or a table to sit at.

Commission-based fees

The model was developed to create access points into the formal economy for entrepreneurs starting out (having said that, some of the artists have been part of the market for years now and have built successful businesses and choose to continue at Spier as well as selling through many other outlets). One unique feature that supports this model is that the artists only pay commission on sales, there is no weekly or monthly rental or overhead. The income generated from commissions pays for all the operating costs of the market including staff and credit card facilities at the central payment point.

Design and styling

The displays are another element that make the Spier Craft Market stand out. Having designed and styled major craft exhibitions nationally and internationally, I feel strongly that attractive displays, which show off each piece to its best advantage, translate into sales, especially for the level of international visitors that visit Spier. Clusters are designed very carefully at the beginning of the season to complement each other and are re-styled at frequent intervals through the season. The attention given to the displays together with the quality of the artists and work selected raises the craft market to the level of a gallery setting and gives participating artists exposure to an international market.

Visit Spier Craft Market for yourself - Open 7 days a week until the end of April 10H00 - 17H30.